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Reader Susan Yasinsky based this project on a real house.  Click for bigger photo.Return to Big Indoor Trains(tm) primer pageOn30 Display Trains
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Written by Susan Yasinsky
for Big Indoor TrainsTM
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Note from Editor: This page's content comes from Susan Yasinsky, a reader of Howard Lamey's Susan created an all-new vintage-style cardboard house based on a real building. We're glad that she has shared her photos and notes with us, so hopefully they will inspire someone else in turn. (For specific details on cutting, assembling, painting, and glittering vintage-style cardboard structures, please refer to Building a Glitterhouse and related articles.)

For this project, Susan put together her own plan, based on a specific building she wanted to model. She liked doing it so much that she hopes to do more.

Susan Yasinsky's Adirondack House

Like so many others, I recall those little houses from childhood. Being a railroad brat (from the real life R.R.), you'd think I'd love trains. My Dad worked for the railroad for 47 years, and our family had Lionel trains in the basement.

However, I was never fascinated with the trains. I loved the little towns that grew up alongside the tracks, that is, the Lionel tracks that my brother spent countless hours adjusting so his trains wouldn't jump them.

My uncle would glue plastic pieces together to create buildings that would go alongside the track once my brother was finished setting up. To me, producing and arranging the buildings was the best part of the whole display. Hey, I was a kid and never knew about model kits. It was all magic to me.

In addition, my mother had the little cardboard houses under the tree every year. I have since enjoyed seeing buildings just like hers on many internet sites, so it's nice to know that other people still enjoy these structures today.

On the other hand, mom's old houses are in pretty sad shape. If you could find an intact window in one of them, you'd be better than me. These days, my sister displays those old houses with all the windows poked out by little fingers years ago. [Editor's Note: You can get replacement windows and restoration advice from Papa Ted's Place, a resource dedicated to collecting and preserving vintage cardboard structures.]

I just happened to stumble upon before this past Christmas.

I had planned on creating some houses for my sister. She deserved some new ones to go along with the homes on the "other side of the tracks." With one look at that site, I was hooked. I created 4 houses and 1 church for my sister.

Then I started thinking about creating houses as replicas of actual structures. The house in these photos is a copy of the main house at a campsite in the Adirondack Mountains. As you can see, it is different than others around.

The base is 5 1/4" x 8 1/2". The house itself is roughly 4" high, and the chimney is 5 1/4" high. The house is 5 1/2" wide x 4 1/2" deep.

Click for bigger photo. Susan's "basic structure." She made her own plans from scratch and tweaked them until she had the proportions she wanted. Click for a bigger photo.
Click for bigger photo. Susan has added brown-painted windowframes. The diamond-framed picture window is a nice detail. Susan hasn't added the dormer roof yet, which looks a little funny in the next photo, but you get the idea. Click for a bigger photo.
Click for bigger photo. This photo shows the same stage of the building from another angle. Click for a bigger photo.
Click for bigger photo. This photo shows the house after Susan has spread fake "snow" on it, then glued glitter on every surface, and added a base, fence, deer, and trees. It has all of the charm of a traditional glitterhouse, while retaining an "Adirondack" feel. Click for a bigger photo.

Most folks who've seen it like it; what do you think? [Editor's note: If you have any comments for Susan, please contact us and we'll forward your note to her.]

I've only worked in clay to create houses, but this cardboard method is great, and it's very simple to place a hole in the back for a light.


This is so much fun, I'm thinking of taking commissions to build "replica" houses for other folks. What do you think? If you'd like to get in contact with me, use the BigIndoorTrains contact form to get in touch with Paul, and he'll forward your note my way.

Big Indoor TrainsTM and LittleGlitterhouses.comTM are looking for your ideas, projects, or photos - Also, if you have similar project, ideas, or photos that you'd like to share with your fellow readers and hobbyists, we'd love to add them to our sites, and we'll be sure to give you full credit for your contribution.

Other Resources for Putz Houses and Related Information

  • What is a Glitterhouse? - Our introduction to the hobbies of collecting and building glitterhouses.

  • Click to see Howard's - Putz house builder Howard Lamey now has his own site, begun in December, 2007. You can get ideas for your own project, commission your own custom-built glitterhouse, or buy a precut kit and finish it yourself.

  • Building a Glitterhouse - A detailed primer on starting your own glitterhouse hobby, including free downloadable plans and detailed instructions for making simple houses and churches.

  • "Papa Ted's Place" Ted Althof's extensive resource about vintage pasteboard houses. Includes some history, many photos from other people's collections, and resources to help you build your own. The links below will take you right to the approprate page on "Papa" Ted's site. You'll find lots of other pages to look at while you're there, though.
    • Building from Scratch - "Papa" Ted Althof has collected tips and photos from other glitterhouse builders including Tom Hull and Ted Howard.
    • Repair and Restoration - "Papa" Ted Althof publishes Tom Hull's tips for restoring damaged antique glitterhouses.
    • Reproduction Parts - Ted offers authentic reproductions of just about every door and window that were used in glitterhouses over a 35-year period. These include celophane and paper "see-through" windows, as well as "stick-on" windows. If you don't know what sizes you need, you can order a template or sample pack. The page includes several photos showing how the replacement parts bring otherwise solid vintage glitterhouses "back to life."
    • Making "Flocked" Windows - Tom Hull's method for making "fuzzy" windowframes on celophane, with additional tips by author and glitterhouse collector Antoinette Stockenberg.
    • Repairing or Replacing Trees Tom's article about the "lufa" trees that were common on pre-war glitterhouses, and can be repaired or else replaced by new lufa carefully cut, soaked with dark green acrylic paint, and allowed to dry before gluing and applying white paint for "snow."

Other Articles that Discuss Putzes and Christmas Villages of the mid-20th Century:

  • About Nativities - Describes how German-American Nativity displays (the original "putzes") grew into communities and landscapes that included pasteboard "putz" houses and even electric trains.
  • What Do Trains Have to Do With Christmas - Describes how electric trains contributed to the communities many families set up at Christmas, with some details about the elaborate "Christmas Gardens" of the Baltimore/DC area.
  • Author Antoinette Stockenberg's home page - includes photographs and comments on putz houses and life in general.

Return to Big Indoor Trains(tm) primer pageTo Return to the BIG Indoor Trains(tm) Primer Page, click here.

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Visit any of the links below to see quality collectible Christmas gifts and
decorations that have been popular with our readers.

Click to see collectible table-top trees, including animated ceramic trees from Thomas Kinkade(r) and other world-class designers. Click to see collectible Christmas wreaths designed by world-known artists. Click to see classic nativity sets, including collections from world-known designers. Click to see collectible Christmas ornaments by world-known designers. Click to see Christmas collectibles with railroad themes - designs by Thomas Kinkade(r).

Note: Big Indoor TrainsTM, Big Train StoreTM, Family Garden TrainsTM, Big Christmas TrainsTM, Garden Train StoreTM, and Trains and TownsTM are trademarks of Breakthrough Communications ( Spook HillTM and LittleGlitterhouses.comTM are trademarks of Howard Lamey. All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Paul D. Race. Reuse or republication without prior written permission is specifically forbidden.
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